As migrants, they reach Finland through Russia
Finland tightens measures against illegal entry into the country and closes border crossings to Russia. Where do migrants and asylum seekers who want to come to the EU come from and who promises them help for that?
With the exception of one border crossing in the northeast of the country, all others between Finland and Russia are closed.
Four border crossings were closed on November 18, and three more on the 24th.
The revenge of the Kremlin
Helsinki explains the decision with the increase in illegal crossings. The President of Finland, Sauli Niinisto, believes that the wave of migrants is the Kremlin's revenge for joining NATO. Moscow claims that border crossings are used only by people who have the right to do so.
From August of this year until now, 684 people from Yemen, Iraq and Somalia, as well as countries from the Middle East, have requested asylum in Finland, according to information from the border authorities provided to DV. All without an entry permit came through Russian border crossings into Finnish territory.
Tips in messenger groups
DW's research in Telegram revealed several Arabic-language groups sharing information and exchanging experiences about undocumented routes and arrivals.
In the group "Information Russia - Finland", for example, even the administrators offer help in applying for a visa to Russia and crossing the border for money.
As can be seen from the chat history, the group was founded in May 2022 by the user "Rus GT", whose profile has now been deleted and it is not known who is behind it.
"Assistance" when crossing the border
Several users, whose profiles have also already been deleted, claim in the chats that they can help to submit a visa and cross the border to Estonia or Finland. For a three-month visa to participate in short language courses in Russia, as well as for transportation to the EU border, 1300 USD was required.
For $2500, a visa that can be extended for up to one year is promised and "student accommodation" and health insurance are guaranteed, "so that there are no problems at the border."
To the border, they promise to be accompanied by a person who speaks Russian "who knows the region better than a GPS device". Then guidelines are given as "on the basis of political views, convictions or threats in the homeland" it is best to seek asylum in the EU.
What do the "intermediaries" promise?
October and November 2023 have the most messages in chats. A user with a phone number registered in Belarus under the name "Abo Abdo" promises that he can help people enter Finland by first bringing "certain Russians" to Vyborg, from where they must continue to the country themselves. "Abo Abdo" adds that a bicycle is needed to cross the border because most of the crossings cannot be crossed on foot.
A Russian told DV that at the Vartsila-Nirala crossing, he noticed a minibus with Russian plates full of bicycles, which the driver distributed to about 30 people before the border.
Another man says that after they took the bicycles, "a Russian border guard led them to the border control".
Another user under the name "N" says that the Russian police do not arrest migrants who are accompanied by an "intermediary".
The user "Torab" emphasizes that the "intermediaries" have some kind of agreement with the Russian border guards and they let them to the Finnish side where they can seek asylum. Both users did not respond to DV's questions.
In the "Moscow-Finland" group, after the announcement of the closing of the borders, it is being debated whether it is possible to cross the border to the north. The number of users jumped from 30 to 170 people in a short time. Many are asking the "intermediaries" for guarantees that they will be able to enter the EU. When asked if they could be arrested during the attempt and deported, the administrator of the group reassures that "within two days, more than 100 people crossed the border and no one was deported."
Russia rejects the accusations
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland, Elina Valtonen, tells DW that Russia is no longer guarding the common border according to the agreements and that this threatens national security and order in Finland. According to her, "it seems that Russia encourages illegal crossing of the border".
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Russian president, indicated that "the borders are used by those who have the legal right to do so and that the Russian border guards fully respect the official guidelines for work."
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified that they consider the idea of the Finnish authorities to close all checkpoints "destructive". The four crossings near St. Petersburg are closed until February 18, 2024, and Finnish authorities have indicated that the decision may be reversed or adjusted, depending on the situation.
Source: Deutsche Welle/ Author: Alexey Strelnikov